The myth of the unemployable arts student

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(Photo by Samantha Kellerman)

It was only a few months ago that I shared a common fear amongst my fellow arts students: “could my degree lack future opportunities?”

Over the past four years of studying history, I have feared my post-graduation life and the uncertainty it brings to my career.

In my opinion, arts students have three viable options after graduation: they could continue their education in graduate school, attend teachers college or leave the university life to seek employment.

The last option worried me the most as I accepted the idea that arts students were not specialized enough to find a valuable career.

However, I recently discovered this notion is a complete myth, one that desperately needs to be busted.

Although a bachelor of arts degree is unlikely to land us a high-salary job the day after graduation, arts students have developed a set of versatile skills, which are transferable to many fields of employment.

Telling ourselves that we are under-qualified is the worst mistake we can make.

Rather than relying on what we know from history, English or other subjects, we need to acknowledge the skills we have enhanced throughout our university careers.

The key to our success in finding a post-academic job depends on our ability to reframe our experience from university in a way that prospective employers can understand and relate to.

Many of the characteristics we have developed throughout our arts degree are considered highly attractive for the job market.

For example, by the time we finish our degrees we have become masters of time management and meeting deadlines, both of which are demanded in career markets.

Another attractive characteristic amongst arts students is our passion for our subject of choice.

When arts students decide on a major they usually do not pick a subject based on expected salary after graduation.

Instead, we devote our careers to a topic we are passionate about. Many of us would sacrifice a higher financial situation to learn about something we love.

Another skill that separates us from students outside arts is our ability to read, analyze, discuss and write about huge quantities of information.

I know that I am not alone when I say that in my final year I am required to undertake at least 500 pages of readings each week.

This skill takes years to develop and is directly transferable to many careers, especially in the information economy.

Recently, a professor I am studying under completely shattered the myth that arts students are incapable of obtaining a specialized career.

Although she was referring to history students in particular, I feel her arguments can be adapted to any arts student.

This professor explained to the class how history students have essentially learned to learn.

By this, she meant that when we are given an opportunity, our employers can provide us with written materials regarding our position.

We will be able to read and understand the content, then efficiently utilize what we have learned and put it into practice in the real world.

Having this skill makes arts students extremely versatile and a good fit for many careers.

So if you are an arts student who is worrying about prospective careers after graduation, take a sigh of relief knowing there is hope for you and your degree.

Although we may not have a career lined up and waiting for us, when we do get our foot in the door we will thrive in that career with the skills and characteristics we have developed over the course of earning a bachelor of arts degree.

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